Dr. Madden's Story
In December 2012, Dr. Joseph Madden known for his kind gentle nature as a pediatrician, found himself facing one of the biggest challenges of his life. What began as stomach pains ended up being a type of cancer called non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Dr. Madden says his battle with cancer began innocently enough one day at work, when he ended up in the Emergency Department with ‘a tummy ache’. He received a CT scan which showed swollen lymph nodes.
Additional tests and a biopsy were ordered as there was a concern he had lymphoma. “It didn’t really sink in. I finished my on-call shift for Pediatrics in Labour and Delivery. I went home. I told my wife,” recalls Dr. Madden.
“Home is the best place to be.”
Thirteen days later biopsy results showed Dr. Madden had slow growing non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He shared the news with his seven children and six brothers.
“I told them, ‘I am feeling fine and the doctors say the outlook is good. I am not worrying.’ My request to my children was don’t look it up online. Ask me your questions. Don’t worry unduly,” said Dr. Madden.
Within a week Dr. Madden underwent a bone marrow test and just before Christmas started six rounds of chemotherapy.
Three months later, Dr. Madden received good news. He was in remission so he headed back to work.
Just one month later, Dr. Madden discovered he was not on the home stretch after all. He noticed a lump in his neck. “I ignored it for a week or two and then bit the bullet and went for a biopsy. I thought, ‘Is this it? Do I need to plan an exit strategy?’ My family was worried. They knew the grave meaning of the recurrence.”
Dr. Madden’s outlook went from a 95% to a 60% chance of remission. After more chemotherapy he was off to Ottawa for a stem cell transplant. After the cells were removed, he recalls having to lay still for nine hours and being radiated from head to toe. Two months later with healthy cells back in his body, Dr. Madden’s strength increased. He happily returned to the job he loves.
Six months later Dr. Madden found yet another lump, this time in his armpit. He was given a 40% chance of remission. “I thought this is ‘it’ this time. I wondered, will I make it to Christmas? Family members started to visit me. I started making plans. I revised my Will.”
He felt a glimmer of hope when a repeat scan showed he was actually heading into remission for a third time. He would require another stem cell transplant and this time he needed a donor. By the end of April 2015, Dr. Madden received the transplant, was monitored closely for reactions during a lengthy stay in Ottawa, and gratefully returned home to North Bay in July. “Home,” he says, “is the best place to be.”
“We need strong cancer screening and treatment here. There is a good chance people will get cancer. For the next several generations the need will be high. When they hear cancer, they need not fear, as it will be reassuring to have a strong system around them, providing a feeling of confidence and trust that something can be done,” said Dr. Madden.
“I am grateful for the wonderful support of colleagues, friends and family, especially the pediatric nursing staff. Their support and kindness played an important part in my recovery.”
Since receiving his second stem cell transplant three years ago, he hasn’t looked back. Dr. Madden still works part-time with North Bay Pediatric Clinic and in May, he, his wife Mary and two of their daughters took a vacation to Spain.